Bothal Lodge Finally Able To Hold Centenary Celebrations

02nd October 2021

Congratulations finally to Bothal Lodge No.4116, which meets at Ashington Masonic Hall, on being able to celebrate there Centenary anniversary.

Bothal Lodge was the brainchild of 7 Past Masters of Ashington Lodge No.2868, in October 1919, led by W Bros John G.D.H. Gray, Frederick Wiseman and Robert Joisce. The first organisational meeting was held in the Grand Hotel, Ashington followed by further meetings, with other interested parties, until December 1919 when the details of the new Lodge, including the name, Bothal Lodge, were unanimously agreed. 7 became 25 as founder members of the Lodge with 23 coming from Ashington Lodge and one each from Holmes Lodge No.2571 and Fawcett Lodge No 661.

It is unknown why the name Bothal was chosen, although possibilities include, the name of the nearby village of Bothal or from the first pit sunk by the Ashington Coal Company in 1866. It was decided that the Lodge emblem should be Bothal Castle and the Founder’s Fee was set at one guinea, with the Annual Subscription at 2 guineas to include supper.

The Lodge was consecrated on 26th August 1920 by the Provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Col. Charles W. Napier-Clavering, at the Seaton Delaval Masonic Hall with 62 brethren in attendance. The Provincial Grand Master installed W. Bro John Gray PProvGSuptWks as the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge, and W. Bro Robert Joisce PProvAGDC and W. Bro. Frederick Wiseman PProvGStB were appointed as Senior and Junior Warden respectively. The first two candidates for Initiation, Mr John Eskdale and Mr George Downie were proposed during the same meeting.

The first regular meeting of the Lodge was held on Wednesday 8th September 1920 at the Grand Hotel, Ashington, attended by only members, and a successful ballot was held for the first two candidates for initiation, who were subsequently initiated at the second meeting on 13th October 1920. By the end of the first full year, the Lodge had initiated 12 candidates and attracted a further 6 joining members.

In 1928, Bothal Lodge joined Ashington Lodge as partners to build the Masonic Hall in John Street Ashington. On completion, the new hall was dedicated on Tuesday 30th April 1929, by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, W. Bro. Charles W. Hodgson PGD.

Founder members occupied the Master’s Chair until the first Initiate, John Eskdale became Master in December 1929. At the end of his year as Master, he presented the Lodge with an inscribed silver snuff box in thanks for the support of the members during his year as Master.

Membership grew steadily in the years before World War II with emergency meetings often held to ensure candidates progressed through the various degrees in a timely manner. After the War, membership continued to increase and by the end of 1950 stood at over 200 and remained at high levels until they started to decline during the 1980s.

The Lodge continued to meet throughout the War years and the Minutes record little of the difficulties facing members, their community or the country at that time. They do show that 15 members were called or volunteered for service during the War and sadly 2 made the ultimate sacrifice. All are commemorated on the War Memorial in the Masonic Hall. In 1944, the first Master of the Lodge, W. Bro. John Gray was promoted to Grand Rank, receiving the rank of PGStB and was the first of 4 members of the Lodge to be promoted to Grand Rank, the others being, Gordon Hall in 1992, Colin Hume in 2006 and Ted Nesbit in 2009.

Over the course of the last century many members have generously donated items to the Lodge. Among these are the gavels, still used today by the Master and his Wardens. They were made from oak from Bothal and old Hirst Castle and were donated in 1923 by the first Tyler, Bro. Robert Goldstraw and Bro. John Weightman. The current Lodge Banner was presented by W.Bro. Morris Ward; which was handmade by his daughter, Jacqueline Morrison. One of the notable and creative members of the Lodge was W.Bro. Fred Laidler, initiated in 1951. Fred was not only a master craftsman in wood but also a celebrated artist being a member of the Ashington Group of Painters, better known as “The Pitmen Painters”.  His pictures are displayed in the permanent exhibition of the Group’s work at the Wansbeck Museum.

On Wednesday 8th September the members of Bothal Lodge were delighted to be able to finally welcome the Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Ian Craigs, and Officers of Provincial Grand Lodge, to their meeting for the presentation of the Centenary Warrant to the Lodge. During the meeting the Worshipful Master, Ted Nesbit was placed on the centre by the Provincial Director of Ceremonies, David Armstrong, with the rest of the members also invited onto the floor around the Master. After the Provincial Secretary, Stuart Cairns had read the Centenary Warrant to the brethren, it was formally presented by the Provincial Grand Master., who then presented Centenary Jewels to each of the Lodge members present.

Ted then presented a short talk on the history of the Lodge and a few of the personalities involved in the last 100 years. After the talk, Ted, then pesented the Provincial Grand Master with cheques for the NMCA, TLC Appeal and the Friends of Scarbrough Court.

After closing the Lodge, the celebrations continued at an excellent banquet where over 60 members and visitors relaxed and enjoyed great company, excellent food, fine wine and short speeches.

A fitting way to mark this historic occasion for the Lodge.

Congratulations from everyone at Northumberland Freemasons to Bothal Lodge on finally being able to celebrate their centenary anniversary. We wish you well for many years to come.

Many thanks to W.Bro Ted Nesbit on the submission of this article.

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